A while back, I was lucky enough to attend South by Southwest, and that week’s long arbiter of What’s Cool in Every Industry is still chugging along in Austin, Texas right now. I saw some fantastic music, met some great folks, and drank some free beer. But the big thing I remember was that some hot new company named “Twitter” was the talk of the town. I learned about Twitter, pondered it, then decided it was ridiculous and predicted that it would go the way of Friendster in less than twelve months.
The lesson: Never get stock tips from me. Ever.
That’s the reason I let the experts tell me what’s going to be The Next Big Thing and our first two stories this week originate in Austin, at South by. One is indeed all about The Next Big Thing. The other? Well, we hope not.
As anyone who’s ever tweeted while they watched a live TV program knows, live events drive Social Media. They make watching in the Super Bowl in the comfort of your own home feel like watching in a theater with your two hundred cleverest friends. But as Social Media becomes more pervasive, what’s the next step? Many experts are betting it’s So-Mo, a.k.a. Social Mobile. Apps like Four Square paved the way for Highlight and Glancee, programs that merge our online lives with our actual, physical ones, programs that use the GPS signal on our phones as a sort of homing beacon to find our friends nearby. A little creepy? In some folks’ opinion, sure. But as online keeps encroaching into our offline lives, it’s seemingly inevitable.
Here’s the one we hope doesn’t catch on. Bartle, Bogle, and Hegarty, an ad agency that sounds like a Harry Potter shop, turned a handful of homeless Texans into walking, talking internet routers. Each wore a shirt proclaiming “I’m a 4G Hotspot” and users were asked to donate two bucks for every fifteen minutes they spent online near each homeless person. It’s part brilliant and part gross, but, since BBH is an ad agency and this has become a national story, you can’t fault this as a publicity mechanism. It’s worth noting that the homeless got to keep the money they raised and that BBH might promote the concept in other urban areas if they feel the response was positive enough.
Recently, we looked at ten businesses that thrived despite a down economy. This week, LinkedIn sends us this great little infographic explaining which industries ballooned and which deflated during our last five fiscally shaky years. A few winners and losers are predictable; internet industries and renewables both blossomed while newspapers and restaurants took the biggest hit. But there are a few surprises in here too. Would you have guessed, for example, that pharmaceuticals have shrunk while public policy has grown? Take a peek to see where the opportunities might be.
Currency is in the eye of the beholder. While humans have traded with gold for millenia and while paper money was in vogue for ages, we’re now in a world where more and more money is transferred unseen, digitally. There’s also been, during the recession, a renewed interest in local currencies and bartering. That all makes sense. But what I’d guess no one saw coming is this: Tide Detergent as currency. That’s right, criminals are apparently stealing, selling, and bartering with Tide, to the extent that they’re loading up entire shopping carts with the stuff and selling it hours later. No one’s sure exactly why Tide is being used — perhaps because it’s fairly costly, perhaps it’s because it rarely fluctuates in value — but it is. Anyway, if you’re selling Tide, considering taking a cue from CVS: lock the stuff up.
Six Time-Management Tips
If you run your own business, you’re short on time. Juggling life, family, and making the endless choices your company needs you to make can be a strain and, at times feel impossible. But it doesn’t have to be. These six tips, lifted from startup accelerator programs, can help you maximize the work you do and minimize the time you do it in. Some of these tips are basic, some are counter-intuitive, but all of them are tried and true. Remember: working longer isn’t always working better.